Friday, 14 September 2007

Richard Dawkins foundations gain charitable status

reposted from: richardDawkins

Good News: Both our Foundations are now Officially Recognized as Charities

by The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science


After more than a year of expensive negotiation, we are delighted to announce that both the US and the UK versions of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science have been granted charitable, tax-exempt status in their respective countries.

The US Foundation is "exempt from Federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Contributions to you are deductible under section 170 of the Code. You are also qualified to receive tax deductible bequests, devises, transfers or gifts under section 2055, 2106 or 2522 of the Code."

The British Foundation is registered as Charity Number 1119952. We shall soon be posting a Gift Aid Form which can be downloaded, together with a full explanation.

Click here to read our Mission Statement, which is a modified version of the one that was taken down a few months ago while our two applications were still pending.,ourMission

Mission Statement for Both Charities

Richard Dawkins

I have just visited my local branch of Britain’s biggest bookshop chain, and this is what I found: six books on astronomy and nineteen books on astrology. The real science is outnumbered three to one by the pseudoscience. There were twenty books on angels, which means that angels and astrology together (39) outnumber the totality of books on all the sciences (33). When you add in the books on fairies, crystal healing, fortune telling, faith healing, Nostradamus, psychics and dream interpretation, it is no contest. Pseudoscience outnumbers science by at least three to one, and I didn’t even begin to count the far larger number of books on religion. This is not, of course, an academic bookshop. Oxford is well supplied with those, and they’d show a very different result. I made my counts in a popular bookshop, presumably typical of the nationwide chain of which it is a part – indeed, the chain’s buying policy is centralized in London, and we may be sure that strenuous and expensive efforts are made to reflect popular taste. As a statistical generalization, the general public, as opposed to an academic readership, prefers irrational books over books that reflect what we know about the real world.

A recent Gallup poll concluded that nearly 50% of the American public believes the universe is less than 10,000 years old. Nearly half the population, in other words, believes that the entire universe, the sun and solar system, the Milky Way galaxy, the Andromeda galaxy, and all the billions of other galaxies, all began after the domestication of the dog. They believe this because they rate a particular bronze age origin myth more highly than all the scientific evidence in the world. It is only one of literally thousands of such myths from around the world, but it happened, by a series of historical accidents, to become enshrined in a book – Genesis – which, by another series of historical accidents, has been translated and disseminated to almost every home in the land plus – infuriatingly – every hotel room. Even before science told us the true story of the origin of the world and the evolution of life, there was no reason to believe the Jewish origin myth any more than the origin myths of the Yoruba or the Kikuyu, the Yanomamo or the Maori, the Dogon or the Cherokee. Now, in the 21st century as we approach Darwin’s bicentenary, the fact that half of Americans take Genesis literally is nothing less than an educational scandal.

The enlightenment is under threat. So is reason. So is truth. So is science, especially in the schools of America. I am one of those scientists who feels that it is no longer enough just to get on and do science. We have to devote a significant proportion of our time and resources to defending it from deliberate attack from organized ignorance. We even have to go out on the attack ourselves, for the sake of reason and sanity. But it must be a positive attack, for science and reason have so much to give. They are not just useful, they enrich our lives in the same kind of way as the arts do. Promoting science as poetry was one of the things that Carl Sagan did so well, and I aspire to continue his tradition.

Over the years, I have given what I could to various secular and rationalist organizations, especially in America where the need is greatest. Unfortunately, however, it is hard for a British citizen to do this in a tax-efficient way. Charities in Britain and America are seldom recognized by the tax authorities on the other side of the Atlantic. Even when they are, the tax systems are different enough in the two countries to make major difficulties. For example, in America it is the donor who reclaims the tax, while in Britain it is the charity that reclaims the donor’s tax for itself.

I started to feel the need for an Anglo-American charity which would cut through these difficulties and facilitate the movement of funds to wherever they are most needed. At the same time it has been increasingly suggested to me that I personally might have some value as a fund raiser, because my books sell well in both countries. Many of my readers are enthusiastic and passionate about science and reason – and some have been kind enough to attribute their enthusiasm and passion to reading my books. Some of these enthusiasts are generous and eager to give, yet some of them might not necessarily think of giving to one of the existing secularist or rationalist charities. Did I not have a duty to set up my own charitable foundation?

My Trustees and I have set up the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science – RDFRS, or RDF. It is actually two sister foundations of the same name, one legally constituted in Britain and the other legally incorporated in the United States. It has an American trustee based in America (Karen Owens), an American trustee based in Britain (Claire Enders) and a British trustee based in Britain (me). The idea of having two linked charities, with the same aims and trustees, is that donors on either side of the Atlantic can give money to charities on the other side, either RDF itself, or other charities with similar aims, that the donor can specify. RDF will, therefore provide a service to all secular and freethinking charities..

But of course RDF itself, on both sides of the Atlantic, will have its own vigorous program of activities which will be well worth supporting in their own right. These will no doubt grow, as the years go by, but we initially visualize the following.

1. Research. We intend to sponsor research into the psychological basis of unreason. What is it about human psychology that predisposes people to find astrology more appealing than astronomy? At what age are young people most vulnerable to unreason? What are the correlations between religiosity and superstition on the one hand, and intelligence, educational level, type of education etc. on the other? Research of this kind would be supported in the form of grants to universities in America and Britain or wherever the best research can be done.

2. Education. Within the limits imposed by the charity laws of the respective countries, we would seek to support rational and scientific education at all ages, and to oppose the subversion of scientific education, for example by the well-financed efforts to teach creationism in science classes. Depending on how much money we raise, we would hope to subsidize the publication of books, pamphlets, DVDs and other educational materials.

3. Website. We shall maintain a high quality websites (, offering scientific, rationalist and humanist information and materials. This document is on that website, which is designed and maintained by Josh Timonen, a highly talented and expert web site designer (see Upper Branch Design). Please explore the website to see the range of stuff that is already there. Independently, Josh Timonen maintains another website,, which is not directly concerned with RDF’s charitable activities but which acts as a lively forum for the exchange of information on scientific and rationalist issues.

4. Database of lecturers. We intend to keep a list, organized by regions in both America and Britain, of people, in universities and elsewhere, who might be willing to receive invitations to lecture. I receive a large number of such invitations myself. I accept as many as I can, but I can’t accept all of them. It would be extremely helpful to have, at my disposal, a list of younger people who might be less well known at this stage of their career, but who would probably give a much better lecture than I ever could. The database would be arranged on a region by region basis so that travel times to lecturing venues can be minimized.

5. Merchandise. Within the legal limits imposed on non-profit organizations in the two countries, we intend to supply, either free or at nominal prices, DVDs, tapes, podcasts, booklets etc. These will initially include such of my own television documentaries etc. as I am allowed to provide. For example, I have acquired, on behalf of RDF, the rights to my 1991 Royal Institution Christmas Lectures for Children, entitled Growing Up in the Universe and originally broadcast by the BBC.

6. Publication. My own books are published by commercial publishers in Britain and America, but there are many excellent books on rationalism, humanism, secularism and atheism that are published only in one country. RDFRS, with its ‘dual nationality’, is well placed to arrange the publication of American books (videos, DVDs etc.) in Britain, and vice versa. At some time in the future, we might embark on some original publishing of our own.

7. Charitable giving by secularists to humanitarian good causes. Major disasters like earthquakes or tornados prompt a desire by decent people of all persuasions to help. Many would-be donors, for various reasons prefer our gifts to go via secular rather than religious charities RDFRS will hope to maintain a list of charities, worldwide, which are not associated with religious institutions or missions.

8. The OUT Campaign. See for details.

9. Consciousness-raising about labelling children. Nobody would describe a tiny child as a “Marxist child” or an “Atheist child”. Yet children are routinely labelled with the religion of their parents. RDF will work to raise public consciousness about this anomaly, and try to encourage people to think carefully before labelling children too young to know their own opinions.

10.Think for Yourself A related campaign of consciousness-raising for children. Children will be encouraged to think for themselves and ask for evidence, rather than necessarily accept tradition wisdom as true simply because it is hallowed by traditional authority.

11. Conferences. RDF may from time to time organize conferences on scientific or rationalistic matters, or may donate money to assist other organizations with similar aims with their conferences.

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